Roadkill Ghost Choir, Walker Lukens

Roadkill Ghost Choir

It’s been two years since Roadkill Ghost Choir has taken listeners on a ride. Last trip, Andrew

Shepard (Vocals / Guitar), Zach Shepard (Bass), Maxx Shepard (Drums / Vocals), Stephen

Garza (Guitar), and Kiffy Myers (Pedal Steel) packed the car, pedal to the metal, with a banjo,

guitars, and the profound swelter of the South. With the upcoming arrival of False Youth

Etcetera, the quintet outgrows their roots in a supersonic fashion – exchanging their known

vehicles for an electrified, aspirational magic carpet ride that soars through the night sky versus

the tireless trudge of clocking mileage on an odometer. Coming off of a handful of challenging

times, Andrew in particular was a bit hardened by his experiences on the road under pressure to

deliver new songs. It’s no surprise False Youth Etcetera feels like a turn towards fantastical

and anthemic escape compared to songs from the past. It’s immediately felt on the band’s first

single, “Classics (Die Young),” which bends beautifully and purposefully in the direction of

M83 than the group’s previous resonance to contemporary folk, based mainly in their choice of

instruments to begin with. “Going into [the band’s first major release] In Tongues, I was terrified

because I had never written under such a pressured amount of time, and I had struggled with

writer’s block for a good portion of that time. After the record was completed, I had my first full-

on panic attack on tour in Houston during one of the worst tours we’ve ever been on,” notes

Shepard. “The sandwich I was eating [before a gig] started to fall apart, and it felt symbolic of

my current state. I immediately left the awful restaurant and found myself aimlessly walking

around an unfamiliar city, feeling I had hit a wall both in my personal life and creatively within

the band. That was a major seed for the record – the dread that informs life being in a band.”

Shepard was able to afford a more comfortable and inherently inspirational environment where

his body of work for the band could flourish, and where he could feel closer to himself. He

explains, “It ended up being the first time I didn’t have a timeline, so I went right back to that –

me sitting and recording, getting ideas down, and navigating what I really wanted to do sonically

and lyrically. False Youth Etcetera is more textural, more synths, more interesting.” Shepard is

pointed in the departure from their familiar sounds, confirming “there is no banjo” on False

Youth Etcetera. Instead, the new set of songs is “sonically, what I always wanted to do. I got to

sit in my room in my underwear and play on synthesizers all day long figuring stuff out. We

learned a lot more in the studio than ever before recording as a band, figure things out, and fully

realize what we were going through.” This notion also shines through in the songwriting of False

Youth Etcetera, the strength of which Shepard credits to his ability to “go through all [his] petty

shit, sadness, take a deep dive, face it, reconcile it, and at the end, realize it’s not that bad.”

This desire to explore new musical terrain was only bolstered by Shepard’s adoration for

similarly sonic explorations that feel like transport and transformation – felt in roots of influence

like The War On Drugs, and Shepard’s longtime desire to “make a record that sounded like

Springsteen if Neu! was his backing band. I think I listened to nothing but Springsteen for about

a year… Songs like ‘Tougher than the Rest’ informed how I wanted to approach the record

sonically. The great 80’s synths, and big drums, huge and covered in reverb. I’m drawn to it for

some reason and I have no idea why.” This refreshed perspective and palette of inspiration,

combined with the “comfort” and “centrality” of a new home base in the richly musical town of

Athens, Georgia positions Roadkill Ghost Choir to brighten many corners as False Youth

Etcetera unfurls to an audience waiting to sit shotgun wherever the path guides them next.

The album is a drive that picks up an impassioned pace – starting with the extended, hazy dream

sequence of “Vision on Vision (Undo)” that will make Roadkill Ghost Choir faithfuls feel right

at home; picking up the pace on the majorly pulsating “Dream Shiver;” later careening into the

stunning peak of a starry, Kraftwerk-inspired, and multilayered journey called “Panik Kit.” The

back half of False Youth Etcetera is masterful aural poetry – from the soaring liberation of “Sad

Magic,” the impassioned yearning of “Suit Said Sing,” to the lilted, sweet conclusion, “Out of

Existence,” so clearly and beautifully delivering the group to a whole new illuminating, electric


Walker Lukens

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